Using Medication to Regulate Healthy Sleep Patterns

A publication released by SAMHSA in 1914 estimated that 33 percent of the general public suffer from some type of insomnia-related sleep disorder, defined as difficulty with either falling or staying asleep. That is a little over one-fourth of the population who are operating on less than the CDC recommended seven-plus hours of sleep a night. Sleep is the body’s natural way to reset, heal, and refresh itself for the oncoming day’s activities. The consequences of chronically missing out on hours of sleep can include poor memory and lowered immune system responses as well as increased potential for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack. These health risks in combination with the frustrations inherent to not being able to sleep night after night takes a toll on the physical body as well as the mind, each eventually taxed to the breaking point.

Unfortunately, those with addictive disorders are more prone to sleeping disorders as their regular sleep patterns have been disrupted by the repeated introduction of illicit substances to the body. Individuals with substance misuse disorders drastically alter the internal chemistry of their bodies, throwing the process of a natural sleep pattern out of rhythm. Individuals may have even resorted to substance misuse to aid sleep. Although drugs or alcohol may induce sleep, this in no way grants the body and mind the rest that it so sorely needs. This kind of sleep provides an illusion of rest but taxes the body more than if individuals had foregone sleep.

Initial sobriety does not automatically alleviate sleep disorders. Like most treatments for addictive disorders, sobriety will bring the underlying sleep issues to the forefront, so that those in recovery can begin to address their difficulty with sleeping. The popular recovery acronym HALT—Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired—immediately comes to mind when discussing sleep disorder. HALT is a reminder about meeting the necessities that could pose an increased risk for relapse if left unattended. Recovery clients should be mindful of getting enough rest as being overly tired can lower the recovery client’s threshold for tolerance of everyday stressors.

Those with substance misuse and sleep disorders are at a difficult crossroads, and clients should contact a medical professional to seek out further help if insomnia symptoms persist. Medicated sleep therapy is a viable alternative, but as a last resort as prescription-strength sleep drugs can have the potential to trigger a relapse. Thankfully, there are a variety of options from non-pharmaceutical to prescription-based, prescription-strength treatments with and without the known potential for abuse.

Non-Prescription Sleep Aids

Exercise is probably the most effective aid with sleep disorders, especially those involving initial difficulty falling asleep. Although this does nothing to regulate sleep patterns and waking up in the middle of the night, putting excess energy to use as exercise can be a great start to improving sleep times. Routine and schedule can also be helpful not just for ongoing sobriety maintenance, but also to help regulate sleep patterns. Clients should also avoid television or using the phone before bed to avoid initial restlessness.

Stop using the snooze on an alarm. Snoozing for 10 more minutes of rest resets the sleep cycle that is eventually interrupted. However, all the chemicals to induce deep sleep have already been released into the body. Individuals who snooze wind up feeling more tired than if they had initially just woken up because the chemicals for deep sleep are still actively running through the body. This confuses the regular sleep pattern of the body, as well. Set a wake-up time and get up around that time regularly.

Prescription Medications without Abuse Potential

There are a variety of over-the-counter sleep aids, but if sleep problems persist, speak with a doctor about the variety of medications without abuse potential. Many of these fall under the categorization of anti-depressants that also have the unintended benefit of offering sleep aid if taken at night. These medications can be a best-case scenario as clients can reduce chances for depression—all too common in early recovery—as well as improve their nightly sleep patterns. Below are a handful of medications without abuse potential:

  • Ramelteon: FDA-approved sleep aid.
  • Doxepin: Anti-Depressant and FDA-approved sleep aid.
  • Trazodone: Anti-Depressant and prescribed for the management of sleep disorder. asleep.

Prescription Medications with Abuse Potential

As mentioned previously, these medications should only be used as a last resort due to their high potential for abuse. Clients should be open and honest about their addictive disorders and only use these under strict guidance from a trained medical professional. Here a few of the prescribed sleep aids with abuse potential:

  • Benzodiazepines: Alprazolam, Diazepam, and Triazolam.
  • Nonbenzodiazepines: Zaleplon, Eszopiclone, and Zolpidemn.

Addictive disorders can wreak havoc on natural sleep patterns, increasing chances for sleep deprivation in combination with the negative effects of continuous substance misuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance misuse and sleep disorder issues, then Choice House has an addiction recovery treatment program that can help. We offer men the opportunity to achieve initial sobriety by providing the necessary guidance, structure, and routine that is so often missing from most of their lives. Men will participate in a variety of therapeutic modalities to address the underlying issues contributing to their substance misuse like mental health disorders, trauma, and sleep disorders. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, our treatment services include a 90-day inpatient program, an intensive outpatient service, as well as the chance to take up residency at our sober living campus. At Choice House, we provide the necessary tools for men to build a new sober foundation based on love and empathy readying them to re-enter the world and face any challenges that await them. For more information, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.

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